Review of Children and Libraries- Erin Look
I chose to review the Children and Libraries journal, a publication put out by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC). This journal caught my eye because of its association with ALSC, a name already familiar to me after only a few weeks of learning about youth services. Because of its status as a child’s librarians’ organization, a journal by ALSC was a logical place to look for topics relevant to the field. One such topic touched on by the journal is modern children’s literature; the journal dedicates many of its articles to keeping the readers abreast of current award winning books and authors. However, Children and Libraries main contribution to the professional development of children’s librarians is in the way they present theoretical discussions, such as the conversations on technological and early literacy, and show ways they can be applied practically to programming and research.
Many of the articles in the issues of Children and Libraries are dedicated to the awards given out by the Association for Library Services to Children. Every issue includes speeches by award-winning authors, illustrators, and publishers in the business of children’s literature. In the summer issues of each year, more than half of the journal is dedicated to transcribing the speeches made by the award winners. The emphasis placed on the awards and ceremony could be two-fold. In one way, the awards serve to introduce the readers to the producers of the works. The speeches give the librarians insight into the lives of the people who are creating the books they read. Often, the speeches comment on the inspiration for the books, which can be used to help librarians better use the books as a teaching tool. For example, in Katherine Applegate’s acceptance speech for her Newberry Award-winning book The One and Only Ivan, she talked about the importance of teaching children that throughout sadness there is hope, a lesson that can be taught by librarians using her book.1
However, the inclusion of the speeches also could be self-promotional on the part of the ALSC. The awards are given by the ALSC; in fact, they are often thanked in the speeches. Based off the ALSC news that is included at the end of each issue, a large amount of effort is expended on organizing and funding the awards ceremonies. This is not the only place where self-promotion can be found in the ALSC journal, but it is one of the most blatant instances. Perhaps this is one of the pitfalls of reading a journal run by an organization with other interests; there is a certain degree of self-interest in the journal.
The first and foremost goal of the journal Children and Libraries is to give practical applications to the relevant child development philosophies. One topic that is pertinent in modern professional practice is the incorporation of technology into the field of children’s literature. Every issue included at least one article about how to bring technology into children’s programming. These articles are written by children’s librarians who have already tried the programs and are therefore able to include tips and resources about how to run things smoothly. One example is an article in the Winter 2012 “play” issue, titled “Play to Learn”. The article was written by Hayley McEwing and talks about various tablet apps that can be used to encourage learning through play. McEwing lists over 15 apps, explaining what tablet they can be used on, how the application functions, and what kind of skills the apps will help to build. She goes on to discuss how it is important to set up sessions for children and parents to come in and use the tablets, including an example of an advertisement she is putting out to encourage people to visit and try the tablets.2 This is a good example of how Children and Libraries introduces new technologies to its readers by giving an in-depth overview of what the technologies are and how to incorporate them into existing programming. Other technologies mentioned in Children and Libraries include video-making, digital cameras, Skyping, and digital children’s libraries. The authors also make sure to provide justification for including these technologies in the programs by explaining the ways in which the technology helps to enable learning.
Another ongoing field conversation is about ways to incorporate early childhood literacy efforts into programming. Librarians from around the country contribute stories about their early childhood literacy efforts. In the Winter 2011 issue, Jenna Nemec wrote an article titled “It’s (Still) Never Too Early to Start!” about the ALSC’s renewed efforts in the Born to Read program. The article gives a history of the Born to Read program and its efforts to reach out the families of underprivileged communities. Although the program dropped off during the 1990s, ALSC decided to renew efforts and make educational materials about early literacy.3 These renewed efforts can be seen in the successive issues. In the most recent issue of the journal, Summer 2013, there were two articles dealing with early literacy. Both followed the same format as the articles about technology; they were written by children’s librarian in the field and discussed specific ways to incorporate early literacy. The article “Repeat after Me!” discusses the importance of repeating books to young children and offers 20 different ways to present the same book, teaching children new lessons each time.4 A librarian could easily plan programs based off the suggestions in the article. The articles offer realistic applications of the ideals that ALSC is trying to promote, like early childhood reading and technology. Various authors of these articles mentioned the amount of work that children’s librarians had to do and made sure to mention that their ideas could be easily brought into a pre-existing routine. Although the topics of technology and literacy are important, they are not as over-arching as the methodology used to present them.
Outside of these discussions about programming, there are unique articles that express other aspects of becoming a children’s librarian. Some of the most compelling articles were those that discussed the research of librarians in the field. There were two prominent articles relating to research: a piece on quilts and one on holidays as they are represented in children’s literature. Both authors looked at a variety of children’s books to see how these topics were woven throughout them. Yolanda Hood, the researcher who investigated quilts, looked at books that were about the underground rail and how each of them used quilts to represent security and freedom.5 In her article Home for the Holidays, Mary Elizabeth Land takes a similar approach, but looking at books throughout the history of children’s literature. She looks at the ways each holiday has been portrayed, moving from moralizing to a more fun and lighthearted depiction.6 These articles, although not as common as many of the others that appear in the journal, are equally as important because they model a research approach to children’s literature. Both Hood and Land lay out their personal research methodologies, which is valuable information for librarians wanting to start their own projects. These articles offer alternative ideas for children librarians to think about, outside of looking at programming and awards.
The Children and Libraries journal offers many valuable resources for youth services professionals. The inclusion of various award winners help children’s librarians to further develop their catalogues to include relevant authors. However, the emphasis placed on including the speeches of the winners grew to be cumbersome and irrelevant and may put some people off from the journal. The most important ways the journal contributes to professional growth is through their emphasis on modeling successful practices. When discussing two of the most important and relevant topics in modern youth services, technological and early childhood literacy, articles lay out the philosophical background and then move into a more pragmatic demonstration of how these philosophies could be put into practice by the readers. This was accomplished by the inclusion of resources and examples from librarians who have already put these ideas into practice. The Children and Libraries journal showed the relevant topics of the field to be early literacy, technology, and research, with a strong emphasis placed on how to make these topics accessible to the working professional.
1Applegate , Katherine. “Newberry Medal Acceptance Speech: “You, my friend, Have Potential”.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. no. 2 (2013): 6-9.
2 McEwing, Hayley. “Play to Learn.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children.no. 3 (2012): 45-51.
3 Nemec, Jenna. “It’s (Still) Never Too Early to Start!.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. no. 3 (2011): 15-21.
4 Diamant-Cohen, Betsy. “Repeat After Me!.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. no. 2 (2013): 20-24.
5 Hood, Yolanda. “An Inconvenient Truth.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. no. 2 (2013): 29-34.
6 Land, Mary Elizabeth. “Home for the Holidays.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. no. 3 (2011): 25-38.